Daniel Isufi, right, continues to pursue his dream of working in baseball operations for MLB while facing lupus. Photo courtesy of Isufi.
Taylor Robertson | Assistant Sports Editor
The story that follows is an excellent example of the old saying that goes, “you never know what is happening behind closed doors.”
That saying is true with Daniel Isufi, one of the team managers for the University of Dayton’s baseball team. Isufi is a senior studying Political Science but hopes to work in baseball operations for MLB.
On the outside looking in, Isufi is a normal young man living the college dream. On the inside, he struggles to remain healthy.
Daniel was diagnosed with lupus at the early age of fourteen. It was nearing Christmas when he began to slowly become extremely ill. He was drowsy with consistent fevers, had little to no energy, difficulty eating and was constantly cold.
Although his health slowly began to decline, it was not until his first basketball game after Christmas break that he realized something was seriously wrong. Before the game started he was unable to even put his socks on. He felt off during warmups and ultimately asked his coach to sit out that game.
“Guys were making fun of me because they were like how could you not get your socks on?” Isufi said.
Isufi headed to a pediatrician to get some labs drawn. Once the results came back, the doctors found that the Kratom levels in Isufi’s kidneys were elevated and he was immediately sent to a Children’s Hospital in Chicago where he would spend the next 31 days.
Lupus is a rare incurable autoimmune disease. This was a familiar diagnosis for Isufi and his family as his dad suffered from lupus as well. For more information on Lupus, visit lupus.org.
This diagnosis hit Isufi really hard; he could barely stand up and was in a lot of pain. Along with physical health, his mental health was affected as well. He was confused as to why he was dealing with a terrible illness at such a young age.
Although lupus cannot be cured, treatments for patients who are affected have begun to help Isufi. He was first immediately put on dialysis three days out of the week. Once he was released from the hospital he began heading to an outpatient dialysis center. He also received chemotherapy once a month in hopes to beat the disease. On top of that he is held responsible for taking multiple medications every single day.
In 2015, Isfui received a kidney biopsy that showed he was in need of a new kidney. Fast forward to his first year of college, he was heading to the dorms for move in day when he got the call that he was dreading. He needed a kidney transplant.
“I was already terrified of moving into college and then they call me and tell me I need a kidney transplant,” Isufi said.
Fortunately, Pam, Isufi’s mom, was a match. His mom did the selfless act and gave her son a kidney. Not long after, he came down with the flu ultimately leading to a trip to the hospital.
Isufi, center, with his mother, Pam (left), and sister, Olivia (right), who both made selfless decisions to donate their kidneys to help Isufi in his fight with Lupus. Photo courtesy of Isufi.
This is when he learned that he was going to need to replace his mother’s kidney. Immediately his sister, Olivia, stepped up.
During this time, Isufi was trained to do peritoneal dialysis while patiently waiting for another kidney transplant. On July 27, 2020, Isufi received his second kidney transplant.
As you can imagine, this took a huge toll on Isufi’s mental health. The responsibilities that came with lupus were overwhelming and stressful for him. On top of everything he was going through, he still showed up.
Isufi still went to class, still went to every baseball practice or game, handled getting his prescriptions and balancing a social life. At one point it clicked, and he knew he was stronger than this disease.
He credits his family and the Dayton baseball team for helping him overcome these obstacles.
Isufi (right) with Dayton baseball head coach Jayson King (left) and a fellow team manager. Photo courtesy of Isufi.
“Baseball at Dayton has been a lifesaver for me. It allows me to forget about Lupus and kidney transplants and just lets me live my life,” Isufi said.
Isufi began to feel this desire to beat the disease and not allow it to define who he was. He began creating opportunities for himself, no matter how out of reach they may have seemed. He never imagined that working with the baseball team was going to be as big of a blessing as it has become.
“I cannot thank coach King and the Dayton baseball program enough for giving me this opportunity, it just lets me be who I am,” Isufi said.
With what seems like everything against him, Isufi keeps a strong mindset. He understood that once he began to feel sorry for himself because of what had happened to him, is when he would lose to the disease.
Isufi’s advice to people who are going through a similar situation is to use the obstacles thrown at you as motivation.
“As much as the diagnosis might seem like a challenge or obstacle, do not let that hinder you from achieving your goals,” Isufi said. “Let that fuel your fire; do not let this diagnosis beat you.”
The University of Dayton is more than fortunate to have someone like Isufi on campus. His story is truly inspiring and I am more than excited to see the future he creates for himself.
Isufi (right) at Fenway Park in Boston, Mass., with a member of the Flyers baseball team. Photo courtesy of Isufi.